Ruotolo v. Tietjen

The Facts

• T executed a will leaving the residue of his estate to Hazel Brennan
• Hazel pre-deceased T
• CT’s anti-lapse statute says that when a devisee predeceases T and no provision is made in the will for such contingency, the devise will go to that person(s)’s issue

Procedural History

• Hazel’s daughter sought to take Hazel’s devised portion under the anti-lapse statute
• TC found that T’s use of the phrase “if she survives me” was a contingency and therefore the use of the anti-lapse statute is invalid

The Issue

Whether TC erred by not applying the anti-lapse statute

The Holding/Disposition

• Yes, reversed

Court’s Reasoning

• Statute was passed to prevent operation of the rule of lapse; it is remedial nature and should be liberally construed
• If T had intended for the bequest to lapse, T could have explicitly provided so
• The result of TC’s ruling is not only that Hazel’s share lapses, but that it would go to the intestate estate, which would mean asking the court to presume that the T intended intestacy as to the remainder of Hazel’s share
• Thus, the phrase does not constitute a provision for the contingency of the death of Hazel

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